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Durham University

Department of Archaeology


Publication details for Ms Floor Huisman

Huisman, Floor (2017), Misreading the marshes: past and present perceptions of the East Anglian Fens, UK, in O'Sullivan, Rebecca Marini, Christina & Binnberg, Julia eds, S2869: Graduate Archaeology at Oxford Annual Conference. Human-Nature Interactions in Archaeological Research. Oxford, British Archaeological Reports (BAR), Oxford, 105-116.

Author(s) from Durham


This paper aims to demonstrate the arbitrariness of the structural opposition
between wet and dryland landscapes and people. This opposition, and an accompanying
negative attitude to wetlands, is often held by ‘outsiders’, those who do not regularly interact
with wetland environments. The outsider view of wetlands can be traced throughout history
and is problematic as it often unwittingly influences our own understanding of past
wetland(er)s. To address this issue, an alternative, ‘insiders’ perception of wetlands should be
considered. This paper will do so by re-evaluating historical accounts written by outsiders
and integrating these with information from the rich archaeological record of the East
Anglian Fens. Doing so reveals several modes of human-wetland interaction in the
(pre)historic Fens which reflect the different ways in which this wetland was perceived by
various people through time. Considering multiple voices and integrating various categories
of evidence from both within and outside wetlands provides us with a more accurate
understanding of the dynamics of past life in and around these landscapes and thus helps us
break down modern dichotomies which create artificial boundaries between wet and